Jihad has become such a fad, I decided I must have one, too, lest I seem not chic, not hip….not with what’s happening. Maybe it’s too late for me to be any of those things since I have arrived at the age where I don’t care about chic, especially nouveau chic, which is a redundancy since yesterday’s chic is not today’s.
Lots of other things go through chic periods then drop out of favor, being fads. My retro Harold Lloyd glasses are chic now, since retro eyewear is all the rage. That is a good thing. The bad thing is that I was wearing my retro-Harold-Lloyd glasses before they were chic, simply nerdy.
“You’re not going to wear those away from the house, are you?” Debbie asked me as I sported my antique celluloid Harold Lloyd style frames I was so proud of.
“Certainly,” I replied, sort of puzzled as to why she would ask.
“Then, we’ll need to take separate cars and arrive at separate times if we go somewhere. I don’t want people thinking we are together.”
I mulled over that. Well, mull is less than properly descriptive. I ruminated over it, having it ferment in four separate stomachs before being passed out as refuse. “I am a trend setter, not a follower,” I told her, confident in my own naturally endowed moxie.
“Uh-huh,” Debbie responded as she reached in her pocket to make sure she had the keys to her car just in case we actually needed to go somewhere.
At that moment, I happened to have plans. I was going down to Wal-Mart to see if I could get me a personal jihad. I had never had one, and since everyone in else seemed to either own one, or participate in one, I was bound to have one, myself. The problem is, I really didn’t know very much about them. I thought I’d best sit down and ponder what I recalled of jihad and ponder my own purposes for wanting one before I started a new hobby that required a lot of expensive paraphernalia.
I first became aware of jihad when Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran was overthrown by Shiite jihadists during the Jimmy Carter presidency. The followers of the despotic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini introduced me to the word, declaring his many-years-long exile in France and his triumphant return to Iran as a successful jihad. It seemed that the newly overthrown Shah’s father, Shah Mohammad Reza had abdicated rule after a post World War II collaborative manipulation by an oddly twisted USA/Soviet effort, which led to democratic elections that allowed one Mohammad Mossadegh to be elected Prime minister by the people of Iran. At least we were told that the people elected Mossadegh….or the ballots that were actually counted indicated Massadegh’s victory, or rather, the official ballots that were furnished helped ensure his victory; we can’t really be sure which.
Now if we Westerners were able to learn from history, one invaluable thing we might have picked up along the way would be that the outside imposition of Western style democracy on persons of Eastern culture and ideology never seem to work out like we planned. It’s not that they don’t work out like the Easterners plan, it’s that our self-serving plans fail to be realized which leaves us frequently disappointed with the outcomes. Thus, Mossadegh unexpectedly nationalized the Iranian oil production industry, driving out the American oil companies, and was promptly deposed with a substantial amount of help from my America, designed to reinstate the ancient direct lineage Persian throne of Babylonian emperor Cyrus with its allegedly legitimate heir, the previously cited Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was a nasty bit of political shah-manship that restored the shah to power. It was the shah’s return to power that led Ayatollah Khomeine to exile in France, and to Exxon’s return to the Iranian oil fields.
Ol’ Shah Reza Pahlavi was a mite too Westerly inclined for the tastes of Iran’s Shiites, and perhaps more than a bit oppressive, too, so they ousted him at their first opportunity, which took them about twenty years or so, and Ayatollah Khomeine returned from France in glory. Whether this was good or bad is still being debated by the world, and even in Iran by the Iranians, because replacing a despot with a despot with a despot, only to have the newer despot deposed by the newest despot hardly seems like a desirable thing, unless you are the newest despot, the one currently carrying out a successful despotage, then, for the brief moment you are on top of your game, the world is your oyster. Regretfully to current despots in charge, oysters spoil quickly.
Once again, Exxon was out, the heir to ancient Persia was out, and the newest most bestest despot was in, all much to the chagrin of an emasculated, pusillanimous Jimmy Carter. The Ayatollah Khomeine declared his triumphant return as the result of his successful personal jihad. I learned right then that if jihads had that much juju, I’d like to get me one too, and at least see if they had one that would fit the 289 cubic inch small block V-8 in my 1965 Mustang fastback that was my first car and my only hot-rod that thumped the ground as I drove by, as loud and annoying to many then as the thudding thump of subwoofered Hip-Hop is to me now. Some things never really change, fads being one of them. Well, the fads themselves change as fast as Imelda Marcos changed shoes, but the fact that they are replaced by new fads mean that fads, as an entity unto themselves, are a permanent fixture. If jihad was the new fad, then I needed to get on with it.
The second time I heard about jihad was when, quite ironically, we were supporting Osama Bin Laden and his followers in resisting Soviet hegemony in Afghanistan. They called themselves the mujihadeen, which the ever reliable WikiPedia says is the plural form of the Arabic word meaning: followers of jihad. They were engaged in a holy war to get the Russians out of Afghanistan since it was a Muslim land invaded by the godless, infidel Soviets. The Russians did not fare so well there. I would argue that the America seems to have fared only somewhat better but for no apparent purpose since things will return to the chaotic jidadist Talibanesque status quo as soon as we are out of there, just like they have in Iraq. The tribalism that exists in the entire Middle Eastern area is hard to break up, which is one more lesson debunking the imposition of Western Democracy on the Eastern mindset.
“East is East, and West is West, and ne’er the twain shall meet,” the Eastern-born poet, Rudyard Kipling, wisely observed. To acknowledge that the Eastern mind is peculiar to our Western mind is to simply acknowledge Eastern culture. That these differences produce conflict is to acknowledge the differences in our distinctly different cultures. To think our own mind contains a better way of thinking is an acknowledgment of our own culture. All cultures have this similar mindset, since liking what one likes automatically excludes what one does not like, which is not bigotry unless one does not want to permit them liking and engaging in their own culture, which jihad seems more than a bit inclined to do. Sometimes, jihadists are the biggest bigots.
The denotation of the Arabic word jihad means to struggle or to resist. The connotation, however, as contained in Islamic scripture, has a thousand different meanings as elaborated by a thousand different Imams, from a personal struggle to wage war against one’s self in living a life of self examination of one’s personal adherence to one’s faith, to the armed resistance of persecution and oppression. Both of these seem reasonable to me. Another Imamish multiple-fatwa-ed definition of jihad is the armed struggle to establish Islam as the world’s true and only religion. This one is a bit difficult for the rest of the world to swallow. It is even hard for many Muslims to swallow.
Islam has a history of using jihad for just about any purpose that suits it at the time, including armed conquest and empire-building, such as that which occurred during the Umayyad Caliphate when all of Europe was threatened to be overrun until they met their defeat in the city of Tours in what is now modern day France in 732AD at the hands of the grandfather of Charlemange, Charles (The Hammer) Martel.
Later on, the Ottoman Empire established itself under the aegis of jihad, again, taking any lands they could get their hands on, requiring non-Muslims to pay a tax, known as the jizya, and engaging in some heavy-handed oppression of their own people, similar to Rome, but mostly allowing folks to go about their business if they kept in line and paid their jizya, again, like Rome. Instead of “Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”, though even that seems to be wearing a bit thin at the moment, it was was “Send us your jizya.” The Ottomans lasted about 700 years or so until finding themselves on the losing end of World War I, which established so many arbitrary borders for whatever reasons folks at the time thought were prudent, or self-serving, trying as Westerners have always done, to impose Western Democracy on those who view Western Democracy as an anomaly. How many times will it take, I wonder, before we learn that lesson?
Jihad was declared when Israel became a state again in 1948. The sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, never got along very well, and they still don’t, the Israelites and the Ishmaelites. That is understandable since the twelve sons of Jacob never got along very well, either. Eventually the ancient kingdom of Israel was split into two nations, the Northern kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Judah was made up of two united tribes from Jacob’s sons Judah and Benjamin, with a few from the tribe of Levi thrown in out of necessity. The descendants of the other ten brothers made up the Kingdom of Israel, abandoning the temple in Jerusalem and setting up their own. The bible refers to them as the Samaritans the Jews despised, even though they were cousins. Some folks believe the ten tribes got lost along the way and just disappeared. We don’t know what happened to them as no one claims to be from the lineage of Ruben, Napthali, Gad, Dan, Joseph, etc., anymore. Perhaps they got mixed up in jihad before they knew what jihad was. Perhaps they were overcome by jihad, since long before the word existed, a righteous cause for the extermination or enslavement of others existed…the world did not need Mohammed to provide a heavenly interpretation that there was such a thing as righteous extermination…the Hebrews already had a holy book that contained more than a little bit of that. I suppose men have always looked for heavenly sanction when murdering or enslaving others, which is not at all an unnatural state of human affairs since, if brothers don’t get along, why on earth would we expect folks who don’t know each other to?
I suppose the patriarch Joseph had his own personal jihad when he encountered his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, who appeared before him as hungry beggars petitioning for relief to the high office he had risen to in ancient Pharaohic Egypt, not recognizing him as the brother they had mistreated very badly. I’d say Joseph won his personal jihad by the display of forgiveness to his brothers. I’d also add that his brothers were very lucky Joseph won his personal jihad with himself. It could have turned out much different.
Prior to that, Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his brother Esau didn’t get along very well, either. Esau was an impetuous hunter, a typical A type personality common in eldest brothers. Ol’ Jacob was a scheming mama’s boy, a typical B type personality common in younger brothers, and wound up in a scheme with his mother to successfully cheat Esau of his birthright. Both brothers found vindication in their personal jihads, since Jacob learned a lesson in dealing with schemers from his future father-in-law, Laman; and Esau, the wild hunter/gang-leader, upon confronting his terrified brother after many years, his entire outlaw gang behind him, gave Jacob a big bear hug and asked with a big smile, “What’s for dinner?” A man cheated of his birthright by his brother, who forgives and still loves his brother is a personal jihadist of the first order in my opinion. Esau may well have lopped off Jacob’s head, instead of forgiving him, and felt every justification in doing so. People are like that.
These days, jihad serves just about any purpose men will put it to in an effort to put righteous sanction on whatever evil they hope to inflict on each other. Seldom is it personal, but it surely is inter-tribal, inter-religious, and international. Jihad is molded into the shape of oppression since many Muslims interpret it as their righteous ability to force others to covert to Islam and live under Islamic law. It is even used by Muslims against other Muslims, since Sunni Islam and Shia Islam consider each other heretics to the true faith, and they both despise the Sufi, the Salafists, and the Amaddiyah. There even seems to be some inter-Sunni jihad opportunity since the Wahabi sect in Arabia consider themselves superior to all other Sunnis and even far more superior to lesser, inferior brands of Islam. Jihad could break among them at any time, for myriad reasons, any of which would be justified by calls for jihad, done in the name of jihad, with the losers being subjected to the penalties of jihad. Jihad can be a loathsome, tiresome thing: even dangerous.
Jihad is particularly fashionable these days. We all make great use of it. Sometimes jihad is waged by secular people who think by virtue of their elite education and training they are better able to show people how to live their lives than the people living those lives; they would have the force of government behind their advice. Our government jihads us all the time by imposing its ever deepening reach into our personal lives.
Jihad has become trendy the world over. It’s as if the Chinese, sensing a market for jihad, have mass manufactured it and are packing it in shipping containers bound for mass merchants the world over. Any day now, I expect a Wal-Mart shelf to contain displays of assorted jihads, in designer colors, available for purchase via credit or debit card. Of course, Wal-Mart would just offer jihad in the widest, most toned-down variety in order to appeal to the broadest group of consumers. For a real, targeted jihad, one might have to visit a custom jihad shop, which would offer your own personalized jihad sort of like a company printing T-shirt graphics.
“Would you like your jihad in raised, puff ink? Or would the regular ink be OK?” the sales associate with Jihad Graphics asked the customer.
“The puff ink, of course. That is a much more classy kind of jihad symbol, I think. Multi-color, too. I want my jihad to stand out from regular jihads,” said the customer.
“The four color jihad printing process is a bit more expensive than what you indicated you were willing to spend,” the sales associate warned.
“On the cheap is no way to conduct a successful jihad, though getting it paid for with someone else’s money is OK,” said the customer, wistfully thinking of how others might be enlisted to pay the expenses.
Then, we might have the Earl Scheib type of Jihad. “We’ll deliver your custom Jihad for only $99.95, plus tax, in any one of five different pastel colors.” Somehow, the thought of jihad and pastel colors seem asynchronous. Pastel colors just don’t come to mind when I see someone shouting jihad and waving an AK-47, firing random shots wildly into the air. The only color I associate with it is a deep, blood-red. Maybe it’s just me.
Or, rather, we could see the advent of the two minute late-night, slack time TV infomercial jihad, “Free 30 day supply! Just pay separate shipping and handling.” This jihad could be shipped right to your door, and laid on your threshold by Fed Ex. You barely have to move to retrieve it. Opening those glued up jihad shipping boxes would be the hardest part.
Perhaps Wall Street will develop a jihad-based mutual fund; that way you could spread your risk around the entire market rather than incur danger to your investment portfolio by investing heavily in a single, and as it might possibly turn out, poorly managed jihad. They may even develop a futures market for them, selling put or call options as if jihad and soybeans were similar. It is possible, for there seems to be as many different jihads as there are individual soybeans in a finely tilled field full of plants with fat, hairy jihad pods, even though all those jihad pods contain multiple jihads that look the same and taste the same, which is not very good, at least to my taste. Maybe future jihads will be as useful as they are benign, just like those soybeans.
I notice with great interest that many jihads are funded with the money and equipment that we Westerners have used to promote our style of democracy. Where I used to exclusively see the Russian invented, world-wide copied AK-47 in the hands of violent jihadists, I now see M-4 rifles furnished by the USA to those whose job it formerly was to fight jihad. Where do Middle-Eastern jihadists get HumVees? Without exception, they were appropriated as a spoil of war, or perhaps simply sold to the jihadists by corrupt politicians trading those implements of war for fat balances in Swiss bank accounts and getaway planes kept on the ready for immediate use for evacuation to European havens when the local jihadists catch up with them, as they eventually seem to do. I expect Iraq’s Nouri Al-Maliki has his getaway all planned. Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, too. I expect Mohammar Quaddafi did, too, but he hung around too long, perhaps foolishly persuaded of his own invincibility, considering that he was the Lion of Libya and all. The aforementioned Shah Reza Pahlavi lived out the rest of his deposed life in the comforts of suburban Virginia, preferring that, I suppose, to having his jihaded head paraded around on a spike pole. Who can blame him? He knew when to make his exit. He knew when the jig was up.
Of course, I am interested in jihad, since the meditator said that no man is an island, and how jihad affects any human being is also how it affects me in the long run. Our own country has engaged in its own jihads again and again. You are free to speculate as to the various jihads America has engaged in and their rationales, some of them truly righteous, others not so much, and others downright shameful. I will not name them here, since doing so will likely cause us to rise up in jihad against each other since we are likely to have heated disagreements as to the nature of any particular jihad.
Perhaps that is what the wrong kind of jihad is, really: our angry righteous indignation against each other that leads to bloodshed.
Perhaps the only kind of good jihad is that personal kind of victory which results in one brother forgiving another and allows them to forget past wrongs and live together in peace, if not harmony, rather than to continue to engage in a blood-feud. Sometimes the harmony is too much to ask for. In that case, the peace will serve just fine, if one can keep it.
I’ll take a little more inwardly directed jihad…the personal kind…and could stand a whole lot less of the externally inflicted kind.
I don’t know that I’ll always have that choice. It will likely depend on how committed others are in making their personal jihad my personal jihad, too, and just how close and effective they seem to be. I likely will not like it all that much. I doubt you will either. The Christians and Yazidis fleeing jihad being inflicted on them in the Levant by the newly minted Islamic State, whose sole purpose seems to be the spreading of worldwide jihad, certainly don’t. I can’t say as I blame them.
Any bets on whether Israel is watching this with more than a passing interest? If so, what odds would you give?
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp